Monday, April 2, 2012

The Final Four, by Paul Volponi

Wow. I really loved this, a well characterized portrait of the members of two NCAA teams meeting up in a Final Four situation.
The Michigan State Spartans, a major player in college basketball, have a stong team with one truly exceptional freshman player in Malcolm McBride- a one-and-done guy who will play NCAA for one year to become eligible for the NBA draft. His offense skills are already legenday, and like Lamar Odom, Kobe Bryant, and Magic Johnson, he will enter the NBA draft and go pro as soon as he can. His appetite for victory and his arrogance/confidence make him a bad team player, but the coach wants this prodigy player to take them far.
The Troy University Trojan are a total cinderella team- like Gonzaga in 1990, they have played far beyond everyone's expectations, and the future of the school's program will change based on their performance at the Championship, and their coach has suddenly stepped into the big leagues. Their 'star' player is defense player Roko Bacic, a red-headed Croatian who moved to America in high school after his uncle was assasinated for uncovering mafia corruption in the war-torn country. Growing up in rural Alabama, Roko's only scholarship offer came from the low-seeded school, but a team who may be tighter than the Spartans.
There are actually fantastic characterization of almost all the other players, and of the coaches as well- I really felt like many of these were very fully fleshed out, with lots of shades of grey...The writing seemed strong and descriptive to me, and I loved the kind of moral ambiguity that made most of the book so strong.

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